3 Unexpected Fish Species Found in the Inland Bays

Mummichogs, horseshoe crabs, and shrimp galore! Seining in the Inland Bays can turn up a number of common species that call our estuary home. But what about the surprise species – the one’s you don’t always expect?

Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting fish scooped up by our Inshore Fish Survey teams this summer!


False silverstripe halfbeak

Found: Holts Landing State Park

The False silverstripe halfbeak (Hyporhamphus meeki) is a fascinating fish characterized by a strange appearance. Where the term “halfbeak” comes from is obvious: its upper jaw is significantly shorter and jutting out from the lower jaw. They measure at an average of 18 centimeters (7 inches).

This fish can be found in both fresh and brackish along the western Atlantic, north to Massachusetts and south to Mexico. They travel in schools in inshore sandy and vegetated areas, feeding on algae and smaller organisms. In areas where they are found in excess, this fish is often used for bait!

Bluntnose Stingray

Found: Holts Landing State Park

The Bluntnose Stingray (Dasyatis say) is a medium-sized stingray with yellow-grey coloring, and a distinctive blunt nose that can grow to a wingspan of around 99 centimeters (39 inches).

This stingray also sports a threatening tail that can grow to one and a half times its body length. Despite this, the Bluntnose Stingray is a non-aggressive creature and is generally harmless to humans. It uses its venomous spiny tail only in self-defense, such as when stepped on by an unsuspecting tourist.

But visitors to Delaware’s Inland Bays shouldn’t worry. This species prefers environments saltier and warmer than our bays. They are typically found in the northern Gulf of Mexico (but surprisingly not near Mexico), and down into South America. It is possible to spot them along the western Atlantic (and in our area), though the likelihood is low.

Because these stingrays tend to lie buried in the sandy the ocean floor, sleeping during the day, visitors to areas where they are common are instructed to ‘shuffle’ their feet to scare them away.


black drum

Found: Cedar Shores at White Creek 

And finally, we come to the Black Drum (Pogonias cromis). Known for it’s drumming sound, this species can be identified by its silver body, rounded back, black stripes and barbells, the whisker-like appendages on its lower chin.

Found along the western Atlantic shore, from Maine to Florida, this bottom dweller enjoys traditional eastern shore seafood feasts of clams, oysters and crabs! The black drum uses its ‘chin barbels’ to search for food and then it uses its strong teeth plates to crush open its meal. 

So where does its name come from? Interestingly, this species makes a distinctive drumming sound, using special muscles to create vibrations on its swim bladder. This is similar to the sounds made by other members of the ‘drum family’, including red drum, weakfish and Atlantic croaker.



Photos and Fish Identification provided by Environmental Scientist, Andrew McGowan!

Posted Under: Staff Blog